Simanaitis Says

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I DELIGHT in touring the lake region of northern Italy, as described several times here. One of these lakes, Lago di Como, is the site of a Bellagio Traghetto adventure with fellow automotive journalist T C Browne.


T C Browne, 1921 – 2004, automotive journalist, raconteur, first national advertising manager of American Honda, last publisher of Sports Car Graphic.

T C and I were in northern Italy in 1989 at the invitation of car enthusiast extraordinaire Martin Swig (rest both their souls). Martin was the guiding light of Amici americani della Mille Miglia, American friends of the legendary Mille Miglia Italian road race, 1927 – 1957.

We were there for the seventh running of the Mille Miglia Storica. This retrospettiva was no longer an out-and-out road race, but it still brimmed with Italian brio (of which more in a couple days).


Lago di Como’s southernmost tip is 30 minutes north of Milan by autostrada. Map from,

Lago di Como is an inverted Y, with the town of Bellagio at its middle apex. This location and a study of letteratura turistica gave T C and me a great idea: Drive our borrowed Fiat Tipo DGT up the west side of the inverted Y from Como to Menaggio. From there, take the traghetto (auto ferry) across the lake to Bellagio. And end with a drive from Bellagio to Como, this time on the east side of the lake’s western portion.


Our Fiat Tipo DGT.

Our borrowed Fiat Tipo DGT had just had its European introduction in 1988; it was never sold in the U.S. Initially, the car was badged “digit,” but after a dispute of who owned that name Fiat changed its nomenclature to DGT.

This caused no end of confusion: Was the Tipo DGT a diesel? In fact, many were. In typical European fashion, the Tipo had eleven (!?) different choices of powerplant, three of which were diesels. The one we borrowed was gasoline-fueled, though not the hot 2.0-liter Sedicivalvole (sixteen valve) model.

Six kilometers north of Como on SS340 is Cernobbio, home of Villa d’Este (


Villa d’Este, in Cernobbio on Lake Como.

Our visit was long before anyone thought of holding an annual concours at Villa d’Este, but what a great idea. See for details.

Another 10 clicks is Laglio, wherein lies the Villa Oleandra. It’s now known as the Italian digs of actor George Clooney. He had yet to buy the villa in 1989; his film credits back then were Return to Horror High; Grizzly II, The Predator and Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Oh, and Combat Academy.


A montage of Lago di Como.

Menaggio is another 22 clicks north from Laglio. From there, we took the traghetto for the middle third of our adventure.


The Menaggio traghetto.

The views from Lago di Como traghetti, on trips generally of an hour or less, were (and are) magnificent.


To the north of Lago di Como are my favorite mountains, the Alps


The lake view approaching Bellagio is especially beautiful.


Bellagio hotels adorn the lakefront .

Bellagio has long been known as “the pearl of Lake Como,” with visitors enjoying its ambience since the early 1800s. Its Hotel Bellagio dates from 1825; the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, from 1872.


The Villa Serbelloni is home to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center (

Conventional wisdom advises avoiding the 30-km drive on SS583 from Bellagio to Como as excessively narrow and twisty.

Yeah, sure. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014


  1. Grey McGown
    February 10, 2017

    Denis…”our vistit was long before Villa D’Este concours…did you get that right?

  2. simanaitissays
    February 10, 2017

    Hello, Grey,
    Well, yes and no. They held annual concours there in the old days up until 1949, with a gap until its resurrection in 1995. T.C. and I had our adventure prior to this resurrection.
    Good for you as an auto historian! Maybe one day I’ll research the old events. I understand they were popular during car-enthusiast Mussolini’s day. And also there were political aspects of the 1951 non-show.

      May 13, 2021

      Hi dennis:
      Can’t find your email address so I’ll write here. I am writing a recollection of TC Browne for a website called My Car and would like to ask permission to use your photo of him,
      I can be reached at
      Thank you
      wallace wyss

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This entry was posted on March 7, 2014 by in Just Trippin' and tagged , , , , , .
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